This Could Be the Start of Something Big
Anyone who follows the work of the Atkinson Foundation knows it has embarked on an exciting new phase in its 73-year history of advancing Joseph Atkinson’s vision of an equitable society. I’m one of those people, and I’m thrilled to join the Foundation as its Director of Social Investment.
My path started two decades ago when I was fortunate enough to benefit from an employment program that landed me a job working on civic engagement and advocacy projects with other young people. A couple of years later, I was invited as part of a group of youth activists and allies, to advise the Ontario Trillium Foundation’s investments in youth-led community projects. It was one of the first funds of its kind. I was in my early 20s, considered myself a grassroots activist and regularly wore a backwards baseball cap to work. I fell for this thing called philanthropy.
Soon after, I joined the Ontario Trillium Foundation staff team, where I worked as a grant maker, policy consultant and manager. During my 13 years there, I had the privilege to manage three grant programs, including the Future Fund. This province-wide program invested in innovative economic opportunities for low-income communities, green economy projects and environmental leadership.
After leaving Trillium, I worked as a consultant providing program development, facilitation and strategic planning support to a variety of clients, including Tides Canada Initiatives, Canadian Women’s Foundation, Schools Without Borders, and SickKids Foundation.
Most recently, I have been a manager with the City of Toronto’s Social Development, Finance and Administration division, responsible for the investment of close to $20M annually in community-based initiatives.
I believe in philanthropy with a commitment to equity. I’m passionate about bringing together people with diverse experiences and voices to work together to create sustainable changes in their communities. I can’t think of a better place to be than at the Atkinson Foundation, an institution with a deep commitment to these same principles.
Atkinson is leading a bold strategy to create a platform for communities to share wealth and prosper. Recent examples of the Foundation’s work include:
- Grants that support Community Benefits Agreement models, the province’s living wage and decent work movements, and neighbourhood community wealth projects.
- A partnership with the Toronto Star to create a work and wealth beat.
- Partnering with seven other charitable foundations to urge Canada’s politicians to invest in high-quality, publicly-accessible early childhood education for all children.
Atkinson challenges us to “change the headlines” and “expect more.” It’s a call to action that embraces meaningful and long-lasting change. This August, I proudly join the Foundation’s staff team to work with its board and partners to realize its – our – mission for social and economic justice in Ontario. Like the classic song goes, “this could be the start of something big!”
Jenn Miller becomes Atkinson’s Director of Social Investment on August 6th, 2015. She will be responsible for our grants and awards programs, responsible investment initiative, and related financial and administrative processes.